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Loss strands Clearwater

The Tornadoes run themselves out of three of the first four innings and fall to Tallahassee Godby 5-2.

[Times photo: Thomas M. Goethe]
Clearwater shortstop Ryan Graham wasn't able to get the throw to make the out on Godby's centerfielder Mark Mildenberger.

By PETE YOUNG

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 17, 2001


TAMPA -- On the biggest stage in its biggest game, Clearwater learned it's the little things that can make the difference.

Tallahassee Godby couldn't hit Clearwater left-hander Jason Costello, but it didn't matter. The Cougars put on a clinic in execution to defeat the Tornadoes 5-2 in a Class 4A semifinal Wednesday at Legends Field.

The loss ends Clearwater's stunning playoff run. The Tornadoes were a No. 3 seed for the district tournament. Seven games later, Clearwater came up one win shy of a state championship berth and a shot at Pinellas County's first public school title since Lakewood in 1970.

"We got close enough to see the end of the tunnel," Clearwater coach Steve McKee said. "It'll probably feel better in a few days, but right now we're real disappointed.

"We had some ups and downs (this season), but we never stopped talking about getting to Legends Field, so we're happy about that."

Clearwater outhit Godby 5-2, but the Tornadoes flubbed most of their chances while the Cougars expertly manufactured runs.

Clearwater (19-14) ran itself out of three of the first four innings. In the first, with Ryan Graham at first and Mark Morris at third and two outs, Graham got caught off first by Godby pitcher Darren Newlin and stuck in a pickle. Morris broke for home, and the throw to catcher Kyle Butler arrived in plenty of time. Morris was out, not to mention ejected for crashing into Butler.

The Tornadoes squandered two more chances by getting picked off first for the final out in the second (Brett Clark) and fourth (Ryan Graham) innings.

Trailing 4-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Clearwater rallied. Mike Krentzman tripled to rightfield to score Matt Coticchio, and Judd Loveland (3-for-3) singled in Krentzman to make it 4-2. However, a great play by Grant Rogers, the third baseman, on a hard grounder by Morris' replacement, Jimmy Rudolph, prevented Clearwater from getting closer.

Newlin (13-1) walked one in earning the complete-game win. While Godby (30-4) couldn't put solid aluminum on Costello's pitches, it scratched out runs on walks (six), bunts, aggressive baserunning (seven steals) and mistakes (three Clearwater errors).

In the third inning, the Cougars went up 1-0 on Rogers' RBI double. It was Godby's only solid hit of the game. The Cougars broke it open with three runs in the fifth -- on no hits. With the help of three walks, a sacrifice bunt, two errors and a wild pitch, Godby took a 4-0 lead.

"I had a lot of two-out walks, and that hurt," said Costello (7-4), who had six strikeouts and allowed three earned runs in going the distance. "And they were very aggressive on the basepaths."

* * *

CLASS 4A: Daytona Beach Seabreeze (27-5) vs. Tallahassee Godby (30-4), 7

PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS: Seabreeze -- Steven Will, senior left-hander (7-0, 48 innings, 1.89 ERA, 50 strikeouts). Godby -- Justin Poole, senior right-hander (9-2, 77 innings, 1.82 ERA, 47 strikeouts).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: Seabreeze -- Beat Bartow 8-7, Gainesville Eastside 10-0, Palatka 8-1 and Cape Coral 6-4. Godby -- Beat Pensacola Pine Forest 7-1, Fernandina Beach 5-4, Live Oak Suwannee 3-1 and Clearwater 5-2.

THE X-FACTORS: Seabreeze -- Kyle Conroy went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs in the semifinal. He entered the tournament with a .306 average and could provide a spark. Godby -- Alex Fonseca entered the tournament hitting .489 with a team-high 10 doubles. He should thrive in the wide-open outfield at Legends Field.

THE SKINNY: Seabreeze is on a nine-game winning streak and has outscored its opponents 74-30 during that span. The Sandcrabs entered the tournament batting .364. Their ability to hit will be key against Godby's pitching staff, which is fairly deep. If Poole gets in trouble, the Cougars can fall back on Jared Parramore, Mark Mildenberger and Kyle Butler.

* * *

CLASS 3A: Tampa Catholic (26-5) vs. Orlando Bishop Moore (27-7), 4

PROBABLE STARTING PITCHERS: TC -- Undecided between junior right-hander Tony Moscato and freshman right-hander Charles Cleveland. Bishop Moore -- Mario Lombardo, junior right-hander (7-1, 501/3 innings, 1.80 ERA, 66 strikeouts).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: TC -- Beat Frostproof 5-0, Englewood Lemon Bay 4-2, Avon Park 5-4 and Marianna 8-7. Bishop Moore -- Beat Umatilla 8-0, Keystone Heights 3-0, Eustis 4-0 and Miami Gulliver Prep 11-2.

THE X-FACTORS: TC -- Cleveland went 3-for-3 against Alan Horne, a projected first-round pick, in the semifinal win. Bishop Moore -- Mike Malatesta went 2-for-4 with three runs scored Wednesday after entering the tournament with a .213 average.

THE SKINNY: Bishop Moore beat a team that began the season ranked in the top 10 in the nation and has four players signed to play Division I next season. That would seem to give the Hornets some momentum. Then again, TC staged one of the biggest comebacks in state semifinal history. Whichever team has the least amount of letdown could take home the championship. -- Compiled by Mike Readling.

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